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Critical role of galvanized steel in the mining industry

The mining industry requires a significant investment in infrastructure to be as efficient and as productive as possible. This is where galvanized steel plays a critical role, reports Simon Norton, Manager, Africa Desk of the International Zinc Association.

Essential infrastructure in the mining industry ranges from steel shaft structures (buntons, station steelwork, headgear) to stope structures (roof supports, pipe hangers), haulway structures (ore transfer stations, electrical stubbies) as well as surface structures (plant buildings, tank supports, pipe gantries, conveyor belts, stacks, stockpile structures, stairways, railings).

Maintenance of structural components can often be difficult because of the environment of exposure (including those where corrosive process plant fumes persist) or limited access (such as in shafts where access is limited to short maintenance shifts and limited working space is available).

Furthermore, South Africa’s deep gold and shallower coal mines have ever present corrosive water, which is where hot dip galvanized (duplex coated) steel really comes into its own. Thus, a cost-efficient, long-lasting, and maintenance-free protection system for steel should be specified, which means a duplex coated galvanized steel system.

Galvanizing provides a tough and abrasion-resistant coating as well as long-term corrosion protection of steel in two ways: As a physical barrier to corrosive atmospheres, and by means of galvanic or sacrificial protection, which is unique to zinc, significantly extending the service life of steel in even the most challenging environments.

The environmental conditions in the mining industry can often be aggressive and the service demands on steel extreme, subjecting it to maximum demands. These conditions include water immersion, impact and abrasive conditions, extended surface wetness, variable temperatures, and corrosive underground atmospheres.

The primary mine environments are underground, at surface minerals beneficiation process plants, and on transportation equipment such as conveyors. Hot dip galvanized coatings have a good track record in protecting many structural steel parts in these environments.

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